On October 1, I crossed an item off my bucket list. Since moving to Boulder in June, I have been literally counting down the days til the CU Law School hosted their annual Stevens lecture. The lecture features of a noted jurist and this year, it's fourth year, they hosted their fourth Supreme Court justice. Oh to have been around to hear Justices Stevens, Ginsberg and O'Connor in previous years! This year's speaker was Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest seated member of the current Court. The complete Supreme Court nerd in me got their an hour early and managed to snag 5th row seats. The 2000 person auditorium was packed with lawyers, law students and judges from around the state of Colorado.
Now, I should probably note here that Scalia is not one of my favorite legal minds. He is undoubtedly brilliant, charismatic and witty, but we occupy positions on very different sides of the political spectrum and in studying Court cases from the past 30 years, I can tell you that I have disagreed with most of his opinions. But despite those feelings, Scalia is a living part of history - without a doubt one of the most influential men in America.
The Justice spoke for about half and hour and then spent another half an hour answering questions from the audience. He is quick on his feet, answering pointed questions with ease and dodging like a true legal pro. The topic of his talk was originalism, go figure. He's witty. The audience, myself included, laughed right along as he called many of us idiots for believing in the living Constitution. And to hear him speak, you understand immediately why Scalia has had his successful career. Listening to him, its easy to see that he truly believes what he says.
I gained an appreciation for Justice Scalia's point of view. Hearing a person speak directly to what they believe is always a moving experience (in my humble opinion). However, I still cannot agree with the Justice's position. I believe that our Framers, having engaged in the restructuring of our government, knew what they were doing in leaving the wording of the Constitution vague. They left room for interpretation to ensure that the law of the land would be flexible enough to withstand the evolution of our society and changes in the social climate. In learning more about Scalia's life and upbringing, you get a glimpse of some of the non-legal and non-rational things that may affect his jurisprudence. For instance, his strict Catholic upbringing and his father's career as a textualist cannot be overstated as impacting Scalia's point of view. Reading Scalia: A Court of One for a very thorough and revealing look at Scalia's life, both personal and professional.
Despite my feelings about Scalia's work as a noted jurist, I was honored to hear him speak and as a parting thought, I'd like to say this: making an effort to understand the other point of view is sometimes difficult and grueling work, but it is a necessary element of any true democratic system. Reflecting honestly about our own views and being open to new information and perspectives is what being an American is all about.
Happy Scalia Day!
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